What Exactly Is a Bantam Breed?

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If you’ve spent any time researching chicken breeds, you’ve likely come across the term “bantam.” The tiny Booted Bantam is pretty, sweet-tempered, and makes a great pet. The showy Japanese Bantam doesn’t serve much of a purpose for eggs or meat, but is a great pet and show bird who will happily rid the yard of bugs. The Silkie Bantam is an adorable and friendly ball of fluff. No matter their name or looks, a “bantam” is much smaller than the average chicken. There are some things a backyard farmer should know before choosing bantam birds over standard chicken breeds.

Fully grown bantam chickens are only 1/3 to 1/5 the size of their standard breed cousins. Most standard breeds have a miniature counterpart, but a true bantam has no large counterpart. Their small size makes them an excellent choice for those with limited space. Whether kept for a pet or for production, bantams don’t require as big of a yard or a coop as do their cousins. Bantam hens are frequently broody and can even be used to hatch other bird’s eggs. They are great show birds, love foraging, and lay small, delicate-looking eggs. Some bantam breeds lay up to 150 eggs annually, but their eggs are only ½ to 1/3 the size of regular eggs. Other bantam breeds lay very infrequently. If you’re after egg production, do your research to find the perfect breed before buying chicks.

Named after an Indonesian port city, bantam chickens were a favorite among sailors due to their small size. What better way to obtain fresh food on a long journey? These birds didn’t take up much space and were easy to care for. Among the more popular bantam breeds are the Sebright, Belgian d’Anvers (Bearded or rumpless), Pekin, Rosecomb, Dutch, and Serama. The American Bantam Association currently describes 57 breeds in its Bantam Standard.

Be extra careful for predators, because the bantam chicken’s small size makes them very vulnerable to cats and other backyard prey. Foxes, hawks, coyotes, and wild cats will make an easy meal of your flock; some sources say that the average lifespan of a free-range bantam chicken is 1-3 years. That’s pretty poor odds. Provide your birds with a secure coop and always put them inside at night. In the winter, be sure to provide them with a heat source. Bantam chickens eat the same feed and have the same watering requirements as standard birds.

Bantam chickens are an attractive and loving addition to any backyard. So long as there is a little grass, there’s room for a bantam or two. Active, friendly, and docile, bantam chickens are raised as pets far more frequently than they are for food. Provide them with adequate shelter and protection, nutritious food, space to roam, and social interaction and you’ll be enjoying your bantam chicken’s company for years to come.

Chickens and Kids—The Ultimate Educational Experience

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Many kids today don’t give a second thought about where their food comes from. Never before has a culture been farther removed from its food source. Fast, easy, and processed is the very definition of the American diet and it is terribly unhealthy. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their child is nutritional awareness. Healthy eating habits are perpetuated over a lifetime.  A great way to start is to put children in touch with their food source; raising chickens is one way to do just that.

The Importance of Healthy Living

If you were to ask the average elementary school child where their food comes from, they’ll likely reply, “From the grocery store!” Many kids have never seen a farm outside of picture books. Lack of healthy food choices contribute to the alarming percentage of American children who are overweight. Change must occur and the best place for this to happen is in the home. Bring the kids out to local farms to see how they work and get up close and personal with the animals. Bring them to the farmer’s market and buy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Move beyond apples, oranges, and bananas. Read books together about healthy eating and where food comes from. Best of all, adopt healthy eating habits as a family and make nutrition a vital part of your life.

How Do Chickens Play Into All This?

Raising backyard chickens puts kids in touch with their food source like nothing else. Caring for and raising a chicken from chick to table is an incredible lesson (although this can be traumatic for some kids, so use caution). Gathering eggs is not only fun, but also incredibly educational. The children learn to care for the birds and respect animals while also learning responsibility through daily chores. Whether they feel like feeding and watering the birds or not, whether they want to gather eggs or clean the coop or not, these things need to be done. These are lessons that can’t be learned through a textbook.

Respecting the Importance of Life

Kids of all ages gain a lot from hatching and raising chicks. Watch the amazement in their eyes as the chicks hatch. Teach them to care for the delicate babies, honing their nurturing skills. Teach them to value life and commit for the long haul as they care for the birds for years. Chickens are perky, funny beings who will capture the entire family’s hearts in no time and they’re not hard to love. They teach kids lessons in patience, respect for living creatures, and animal husbandry.  They’ll likely learn about the frailty of life, too, and the hard truth about loss should a bird die.

Teaching Self-Sustainability Too

Another great lesson to be found in raising chickens is the concept of self-sustainability. Not all food must come from the grocery store. In fact, some food (such as eggs) can easily be raised at home and tastes even better than the conventional store-bought variety. The kids may start wondering what else they can do for themselves.

Don’t Forget The Fun!

Raising chickens can be great fun and chickens can make wonderful pets. If your kids aren’t completely interested in raising backyard birds, however, don’t press the issue. Don’t make the chickens a burden on them hoping they’ll come to enjoy the birds. There’s a chance it’ll work, but more likely they’ll resent the added responsibilities. If the kids are interested in chicken husbandry and are just as enthusiastic as you are, do research as a family. Make sure that the kids are responsible enough and are in it for the long haul. If you get into this wisely, it may turn into one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve ever shared as a family.


You’re Raising Broilers— But Do You Know the Finer Points of Chicken Meat?

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Photo by: U.S. Department of Agriculture

If you have the space available, raising chickens for meat is an inexpensive and easy way to provide your family with the healthiest possible poultry. A healthy diet, exercise, and sunlight does a bird good. Not only are the birds healthier, but organically raised chickens are fed organic feed, free from the pesticides and chemical fertilizers their factory counterparts dine on. Your backyard birds won’t be on a constant diet of antibiotics either. Your poultry will be less likely to be infected with food-borne-illness causing pathogens, your birds will grow to be leaner and meatier due to exercise and free movement, and your meat will taste better too. What isn’t there to love?

Roasted, broiled, grilled, or fried, chicken is an amazingly versatile meat. Dark meat or light? It’s a matter of preference. One is not truly superior to the other, although there are some nutritional differences. While they have nearly the same amount of calories and protein, light meat is slightly less caloric (21 calories less, according to the US Department of Agriculture Database). Dark meat has twice the amount of saturated fat but they both contain vitamins  B and A and 4% of the recommended daily allowance of thiamin.  Dark meat has double the riboflavin as light meat while light meat contains more niacin. As you can see, both have their benefits. While white meat may be the healthiest choice for the cholesterol conscious, neither is bad for you. It’s really a matter of what one prefers. Americans tend to prefer white meat, while in some Asian countries it is dark meat that is desired.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast is an excellent part of a low-fat, healthy diet. Why? Low in saturated fat, high in protein, and vitamin rich, there aren’t many other meats out there that have so much to offer. A serving of chicken has fewer calories than a serving of beef as well as fewer grams of saturated fat and cholesterol. There’s a reason that nutritionists say to avoid red meat and choose chicken instead. It’s better for you. Raising your own chickens will provide you with the healthiest possible chicken meat. Remember, quality food, space to roam, and sunshine create a great chicken. The healthier the environment, the healthier the resulting meat.

Whether you’re simply considering raising broilers (meat chickens) or whether you already have a flock, backyard farming is an enjoyable and hugely rewarding hobby. Do your research, find the breed that’s right for you, and enjoy.

Keeping Chickens as Pets

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It’s popular to keep chickens for eggs and for meat, but what about keeping a chicken as a pet? In some countries, this is actually quite popular. Cat, dog, or chicken? Any chicken can ideally be a pet if raised gently, but some breeds make much better pets than others. Keeping a chicken as a pet isn’t much different from regular chicken husbandry, but there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Start From the Beginning

There are few things quite as rewarding from raising a chicken from an egg, or at least a very young chick. One can purchase young chicks online or from their local farm supply store and must keep them in an incubator for the first several weeks. The more you handle them and the gentler you are with them, the more your chicks will trust you and respond well to human touch. Squat down to handle your chicks, don’t make fast motions, feed them from your hands, and make sure that small children don’t run around them or handle them roughly. Teach your children to handle them gently, to feed them, and to treat the birds well. This is an excellent chance to educate your children and sure to create a lasting relationship between your kids and your family’s new pets.

Some Breeds Are Better Choices Than Others

While all chickens can make decent pets, some are naturally better tempered than others. Hens are the best choice and quiet, gentle breeds make the best bets. Bantam chickens are much smaller than regular breeds, making them easier to hold. Looks, coloring, and size are all a matter of preference.

Silkie Chickens make excellent pets and their silk-like feathers make them appealing to hold as well. Docile, soft, and easy to carry, the Silkie Chicken is the ideal pet. They are friendly, especially if they’re been handled frequently from the time they were young. Silkie Chickens also make excellent mothers, so if you want to increase the size of your flock this breed may be just what you’re looking for.

Ameraucana chickens are also popular pets and an added perk is that they lay lovely, colorful eggs. They are known for their unique looks and their gentle temperament. They are not the best egg layers when it comes to quantity, but they are good with children, easy to care for, and even-tempered.

Other breeds that make excellent pets are Cochins, Mille Fleurs, Brahmas, Austerlorps, Sussex, Plymouth Rocks, and Buff Orpingtons. No matter which breed you choose, do your research! Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Keeping Your Pets Safe

Before buying your first chicks, take account of the pets you already have. Dogs and chickens often don’t mix well. Certain breeds, like Jack Russell Terriers, have been bred to kill small creatures. A chasing, nipping dog can easily kill a chicken. Training a puppy to be gentle with chicks and chickens is much easier than training a full-grown dog to do the same things. Even when you have trained your dog, it’s never wise to leave your dog alone with your pet chickens. The results can be disastrous. The same can be said for cats. Keep in mind that many creatures prey on chickens and that you must take extra precautions to keep your pets from becoming another animal’s dinner.

5 Benefits of Raising Your Own Chickens

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Raising backyard chickens has gained a lot of popularity over the past decade. Many large cities allow backyard flocks already and committees are petitioning their local governments all across the United States to allow the practice within their city limits as well. As more people learn about sustainability, the environment, and what is really in the food they eat, the backyard chicken trend will only increase. Whether you own a small plot of land in a city, a decent-sized suburban backyard, or a sprawling country estate, a chicken coop and small flock of poultry may be the perfect addition to your property. The benefits of raising your own chickens are many.

1. Fresh, Nutritious Eggs

Photo by: Bryan Jones
Photo by: Bryan Jones

The most well-known benefit of raising chickens is the constant supply of healthy, organic eggs. Nothing beats fresh eggs! Free-range eggs have less cholesterol than commercially raised eggs, according to a 2007 study by Mother Earth News. They also have more vitamin A and E, less saturated fat, and extra omega 3’s.  Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Free-range chickens produce eggs with a deep orange yolk, far different from the eggs one buys in a store. They taste delicious and are healthy for the entire family. With the price of organic eggs at a premium, raising your own chickens for eggs is an economical way to provide your family with nutritious, organic food.

2. Chemical Free Pest Control

Chickens love scavenging and are bug connoisseurs. These protein-rich bugs provide chickens a tasty treat while also ridding your yard of pests. Chickens make a quick meal of grasshoppers, lawn grubs, ants, ticks, termites, and even scorpions. They also enjoy slugs. Rather than spraying your lawn and garden with toxic insecticides, chickens will rid your property of pests and keep it pest free without harmful chemicals and at minimal cost. They’re certainly much less expensive than a commercial bug-control company!

3. Healthy Soil

Chicken waste is a phenomenal fertilizer and raising chickens will provide you with a constant supply of fertilizer with which to grace your lawn and gardens.  Chicken fertilizer can transform weak topsoil into a fertile garden, capable of growing healthy vegetables and strong flowers. Let the fertilizer compost before applying it to your plants, because fresh manure is quite high in nitrogen and this may actually harm your plants.

Chickens are also natural diggers and they will aerate your soil, increasing your soils’ health.

4. Preventing Extinction

Large-scale commercial chicken farms prefer certain chicken breeds. Many wonderful chicken breeds, called Heritage Breeds, now risk extinction. These three-dozen or so breeds were sidelined for quick-growing birds raised in huge chicken farms. Small-scale and backyard farmers have an amazing opportunity to keep these breeds alive in their own yards, preserving the genetic diversity of these beautiful, productive chickens. Heritage chickens are old-fashioned breeds with a slow and natural growth rate and a long lifespan of 5-7 years. They mate naturally and are recognized by the American Poultry Association. Several popular heritage breeds are the Rhode Island Red, Wyandotte, Old English Game, Brahma, and Buckeye. For a complete list of heritage chicken breeds, check out: http://www.albc-usa.org/heritagechicken/cpl_chickenbreeds.html.

5. Money Making Opportunities

Organic eggs cost a premium. Raising your own chickens will not only provide your own family with a supply of fresh eggs, but if you have a surplus you could easily make a profit by selling your eggs. You could sell your eggs or chicken meat by word of mouth, at your local farmer’s market, or through a local health food store. Be sure to look up your city’s rules and regulations to make sure it’s legal. Organic chicken meat and eggs are profitable and there is a large market for these products.

Buying Your First Chickens

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There’s not much cuter than a fuzzy yellow, newborn chick. Each spring, people are tempted to buy a few for their own backyard or to give them to loved ones as gifts. This is a terrible idea. They are adorable, true, but chicks are a huge commitment. Chicks have special heating and feed requirements. They grow into much larger and less cute chickens, which need a coop and a place to roam. Whether a gift for yourself or a friend, a chick comes with many strings attached: feed to buy, a living area to build and maintain, cleaning up after the chicken, veterinary care, and more. Not to mention the hassle the chicken may cause with your homeowner’s association! No matter how cute they are, resist the urge to liven your springtime with chicks. They do not make good Easter gifts.

If you’ve thought long and hard about the time and effort required to raise chicks and have already prepared your property for your birds, buying your first chicks can be one of the most exhilarating parts of chicken husbandry. Make sure that you have the knowledge to successfully raise them, a healthy and warm home for them, and that you’re willing to care for these birds for the next 5-7 years. Are you ready to make that commitment?

Online Vs. In-Person Ordering

Chicks can be ordered online and delivered to your home or purchased in-person from a farm or farm supply store. Online or catalogue ordering is a quick and easy way to choose your chicks. If you choose to order online, ask about the company’s shipping methods and fees, chick guarantees, minimum chick order requirements, and certifications.

Buying chicks in-person has a huge advantage: you’ll be able to see the condition of your chicks and check them for diseases. If any are in poor conditions or are sickly looking, you’ll be able to reject them instantly. Healthy birds should be alert. They shouldn’t have skin conditions, like bald patches or soreness and redness. Personally choosing the best of the flock will give you the best chance at successful chicken husbandry.

Also, remember not to get too many chicks. They are small now, but they’ll get much larger. Also keep in mind the number of eggs your chicken breed produces on average. Compare this with the number of eggs your family will realistically eat, the amount of space you have available, and the expense of caring for multiple

Caring For Your New Chick

For the first 5-8 weeks of life, chicks should be kept indoors in a brooder. Any sort of box, cage, or even an empty aquarium will do. Line the bottom with pine shavings or newspaper and keep the brooder warm with a light bulb and reflector. For the first week of life, the temperature must be kept between 90-100 degrees. For each week after that until the chicks have feathers, decrease the temperature by 5 degrees until you eventually get to 70 degrees.

Your new chicks not only need a sanitary place to live and warmth, but they also need a constant supply of water (make sure it is very shallow to prevent drowning) and a feeder. Feed them chick grit, which is specially formulated food for this stage of their lives. Check on your chicks several times a day to make sure they are warm enough, have food and water, and are not in harm’s way. Chicks require a lot of supervision!

Watch Your Chicks Grow

As your birds get larger and older, they’ll need more floor space per chick. They’ll also require more water and food and will be able to go outside in a safe, fenced-in area on a warm day. Once your birds are larger and fully feathered, it’s okay to start introducing them to their coop. If it’s cold at night, keep them in their heated
brooder during the evening hours. If it’s warm outside or if your coop is heated, you can keep your adolescent chickens in their coop. There is no one-size-fits-all age when it’s okay to transfer your chicks from the brooder to the coop. So long as your birds are healthy, feathered, and thriving, it’s up to you exactly when to move your chicks to their long-awaited home.

Raising Chickens for Eggs

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“We can see a thousand miracles around us every day,” said famous American clergyman and Christian radio broadcaster Samuel Parkes Cadman, “What is more supernatural than an egg yolk turning into a chicken?” Whether used to expand the size of your flock or for a regular supply of food, eggs are a miraculous thing. What other item can either turn into another laying hen (if fertilized), or become a protein-rich and versatile food source for humans? Raising chickens for eggs is a relatively inexpensive way to provide one’s family with a constant supply of wholesome, nutritious eggs. It can also be a good business. Organic, free-range chicken eggs are in high demand.

Make Sure It’s Legal and Build Your Coop

Before you order your first chicks, make sure that raising backyard chickens is legal where you live. Build a chicken coop such as those found at here on my site, prepare your chicken run, and gather all supplies. Make sure that your chickens have a safe, enclosed place to sleep at night and laying boxes for their eggs. Research the best type of chicken for your purpose and geographical area and do your homework on how to raise chickens. The Internet is a good source for information, as is your local library or bookstore. The better educated you are on the topic, the better your chicken raising experience will be.

Photo by: Bryan Jones
Photo by: Bryan Jones

Choose the Best Layers for You

There are hundreds of different chicken breeds in existence and one size certainly does not fit all when it comes to choosing the perfect breed for you. Some chickens are layers, some are broilers (meat chickens), and some are dual purpose. Even among layers, the variety is huge. Some breeds lay over 200 eggs annually, while others lay closer to 80.

Leghorn chickens are consistent laying birds that produce around 300 eggs annually. Rhode Island Reds, Red Stars, Light Sussex, Plymouth Rock, and Barred Rock chickens are also fantastic layers. Chickens that are great layers as well as great mother hens (“broody” hens) who will care for her chicks include the Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Cuckoo Maran, and the Light Sussex. If you do not have a rooster and only raise eggs for food, then a great layer who is not broody is a good choice. If you would like the possibility of baby chicks, a broody hen is a better option because she’ll readily sit on and care for her own eggs. 2-4 hens are a good amount to start out with if you want a steady supply of eggs for your family. Don’t buy too many birds in the beginning, as you can quickly become overwhelmed with the number of eggs they produce.

Caring For Your Layers

Chickens eat nearly constantly and enjoy a wide variety of foods. Chicken feed, vegetables, fruits, grains, and seeds are all healthy choices. Feed your chickens daily or use a large, self-feeding container that holds several days’ worth of feed. They’ll also eat bugs and worms from your yard. On average, a laying hen will eat ¼ lb of feed each day. This amount is variable and will depend on your specific hen. Regardless, chickens like to eat!

Chickens also need access to clean water, and a large watering container is a good option. A modern watering container can store 3-5 gallons of water and regulates the water into a trough that is not too deep to risk drowning while also offering a steady supply of water. These are available online as well as farmer supply stores.

Provide your hens with a safe home, sunlight, fresh air, and lots of room to exercise. Clean their coop regularly to reduce the risk of illness or disease or use a chicken tractor to keep their living area fresh and your yard fertilized. Raising chickens for eggs is not hard to do and, with a little bit of self-education and experience, you’ll soon be enjoying an abundant supply of fresh eggs. Good luck!

My Top 5 Reasons for Raising My Own Chickens…

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Today I thought I’d list some of the top reasons I personally think just about anyone should consider raising their own chickens…

(after reading the article, please share your own reasons for raising chickens by posting a comment at the bottom of this page! 😉 )

1. The eggs are healthier!

healthy eggs











Photo by artbystevejohnson

Eggs from properly raised “backyard chickens” are sooo much healthier than store-bought ones.

Chicken factory farms has one single goal: to make the chickens produce eggs as quickly and cheaply as possible. This results in an unvaried and unnatural diet and in many cases they will be given various hormones and antibiotics.

On the other hand, chickens that are allowed to forage freely, peck for insects and engage in their natural behavior will provide you with considerably healthier eggs, free from hormones or other unnatural substances and are brimming with nutrition!

2. The Taste!

Chickens eating a varied, nutritious diet will result in more flavorful eggs.

Many people who eat an egg from a properly raised “backyard chicken” will be surprised by the the strong flavors as well as the intense, almost orange color of the yolk compared to their store counterparts.

3. Garden Benefits!

plants in garden











Photo by celesteh

Chicken droppings enrich your compost. Chicken droppings are high in nitrogen. Added to the compost bin they add more nitrogen and improve your compost.

Chickens provide natural insect control. As they hunt and peck around the yard, chickens gobble up grubs, earwigs and other bugs, treating our garden pests as tasty, nutritious treats.

Even their scratching for bugs will benefit your garden by aerating the soil and breaking down larger pieces resulting in an accelerated decomposition process!

4. Chickens Are Fun & Educational

Chickens are extremely easy to raise. Essentially, all they need is space, food and shelter.

Believe it or not, raising chickens can also be a lot of FUN! Just like dogs or cats, every chicken has its own personality traits and just sitting down on your lawn watching them can provide a lot of entertainment 🙂

Lastly, raising chickens provides a great learning experience, for children and adults alike! You’ll also quickly notice how your values towards animals and the value of the quality of food and where it comes from change.

5. Freedom From the Industrial Food Industry

grocery shopping cart











Photo by qmnonic

In these uncertain times, moving towards self-sufficiency is a great goal and producing your own eggs is a great step in the right direction. If you’re into gardening, that can take care of a lot of your fruit and vegetables needs. Cows, sheep, and goats are too big and cumbersome for most yards, while chickens are small, relatively quiet, willing to eat just about anything, and they can produce a steady stream of eggs.

These are my own personal top reasons I love keeping my own chickens…

All the best,
John White

PS. Do you have your own top list? Share it here below by leaving a comment!


Build Your Own Chicken Nesting Boxes

chicken in a nesting box
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For the nesting box, start with ripping a 2x4x8′ plank down the center. You need to make two frames as shown below.

chicken nesting box





Either purchase some 1×2 post or rip another 2x4x8′ plank down the center. Cut as shown and attach to the frame pieces on the inside corners.


chicken nesting box






Rip pieces of plywood sheet to wrap around three sides. Be sure to measure and layout the cuts to make and be sure they fit flush. Start with the longest sides, cut a rear piece to cover both ends. Attach a handle if you would like.

chicken nesting box





Cut a dowel to just fit snugly inside the nesting box. Use a rubber mallet or dead-blow hammer to tap the dowel in place just below the top rim of the nesting box. Attach the dowel to plywood with screws through the exterior face of the plywood. Make sure the dowel is BELOW the frame!

Tip the nesting box on its top and cut a piece of plywood to fit the bottom. Attach to the frame with screws. Make sure the bottom is cut to fit (even slightly smaller) so the nesting box will fit in the spaces on the completed coop.

chicken nesting box





Use a hinge to attach the front piece of plywood to the top, front edge. You will want to attach the hinge to the plywood before attaching the hinge to the nesting box frame. This way you can ensure the nesting box opens and closes properly. Use a hook and eye-pin to lock the nesting box closed.

chicken nesting box




Until later,